The rise of Donald Trump is the best thing to ever happen to Gabby Morrongiello’s career.
She joined The Washington Examiner as a campaign reporter in late 2015. Because of her lack of experience covering presidential campaigns, her editors were not willing to let her cover more established candidates like Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton. So they tasked her with the Trump beat, thinking his campaign would receive the least attention.
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) December 17, 2016
“It’s almost like a comedy how it unfolded, to have those doors opened just because I was assigned to a candidate that very few people had faith in initially,” Morrongiello said in an interview with MediaFile.
Morrongiello recently left the Examiner to become the New York Post’s Washington Bureau chief. At 23, her success can be attributed to much more than just a happy accident.
Some personal news: I'm joining the @nypost starting today to cover the White House + other exciting stuff. Can't wait to get started!
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) April 24, 2017
DONALD TRUMP TAKES THE STAGE AS THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES pic.twitter.com/UsxN8yYWHj
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) November 9, 2016
She grew up in Sonoma, Calif., which is situated between Berkeley and San Francisco – two of the most liberal places in the nation. Morrongiello grew up in “a very socially and fiscally conservative family,” but relished the chance to exchange ideas with friends from more progressive households.
She spent her first two years of college at Oregon State University before transferring to George Washington University after a 2013 Examiner internship convinced her to stay in D.C.. She was heavily involved with the GW’s Young America’s Foundation chapter, and was taken aback by how much backlash the organization received for requesting a religious exemption from mandatory LGBT sensitivity training.
“[GW] was not always the most friendly environment to be a conservative in, but I think that was something we always appreciated as conservatives,” she said. “We felt any time we did reach a student that was wavering or disagreed with how secular GW’s environment was, it felt like a grand accomplishment.”
She graduated GW in May 2015 with a degree in political science, and worked for Campus Reform for three months before getting a job with the Examiner.
Trump campaign fattening up reporters for slaughter pic.twitter.com/PfWPatM91B
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) November 8, 2016
Morrongiello spent a month in New Hampshire leading up to the state’s presidential primary, attending rallies and trying to make sense of the Trump phenomenon. She said the hours were grueling, but worth it because she was given a rare opportunity to talk to Trump supporters before most national media outlets began taking them seriously.
“It was wild, but I would not trade it for the world,” she said. “It was an invaluable experience, getting to hear face to face from the people who were so encouraged and drawn to Trump’s campaign.”
As she continued to cover Trump throughout the election cycle and into the first few months of his presidency, her reputation as one of D.C.’s foremost Trump experts continued to skyrocket. She made frequent guest appearances on Fox News and other national news networks, further raising her profile.
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) March 16, 2017
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) February 10, 2017
“It’s been terrifying, getting on a network and realizing there are a million people watching you and realizing if you mess up, you’ll be turned into a meme,” she said. “It’s humbling to sit back and think about, ‘I just went on television and people are thinking about what I have to say.’ There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with that.”
Morrongiello said she believes that of all the factors that have helped or hampered her success, being a woman is not one of them.
“It’s interesting that that is the assumption, that women in media are constantly facing obstacles or having to prove themselves more than their male counterparts,” she said. “I never found that to be the case. I think there are more opportunities in media for women, especially for doing television.”
She said that in her experience, it can also be easier for female journalists to get interviews outside campaign rallies because “there’s a sense of warmth in the female journalist that you don’t have in men.”
“I do think that there are some advantages that female journalists have that men don’t, and vice versa,” she continued. “So I think it’s a pretty even playing field.”
Morrongiello has modeled her professional life off this Ronald Reagan quote, first imparted on her during her Examiner internship: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
To that end, she advises aspiring college journalists to be the “the first in the office and the last to leave,” and to recognize that D.C. is a small enough town that negative words can easily come back to haunt you.
“As long as you put in the hours and treat people above you with respect, it will come back as some form of reward,” she said. “It may not come back to you immediately, but eventually it will pay off.”
That line of thinking led Morrongiello to the New York Post, where she is excited to act as proof that not all journalists have to start their careers “at some podunk newspaper and work your way up.”
“I’m just so thankful for this opportunity, and it’s quite an incredible feeling that someone could have that much confidence in me at 23 years old,” she said. “It makes me want to work that much harder and prove to them they made the right decision.”